A Humble Parent’s Bumbling Belief

It’s Mother’s Day, and it’s complicated. Most of us have mother issues – because of the kind of mother we are or wish we were or because of the kind of mother we had. We might be overwhelmed by multiple kids, longing for kids we don’t have, missing kids we did have, or grieving for our kids who are suffering. A very loaded day indeed.

As a Mom of 3 kids, one thing I can relate to is how desperate we can be for our kids to be healthy – physically, mentally, and spiritually. There is nothing quite like watching our kids suffer. I think that’s what drew me in so deeply to these 2 little verses this week.

Mark 9:23-24 “Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!””

I never stopped and thought through this passage properly – these raw and exposing words spontaneously blurted out by a Daddy desperate to save his son. Jesus tells him all he has to do is believe. He lands on the only thing the man cannot force, cannot pretend. Belief. It’s all on the line. Can you feel his panic?

He wants to yell, “I believe!” and leave it there, but his heart checks him as he rightfully sizes Jesus up as a man who will know the truth (whether he’s divine or not). Every ounce of his conscious mind wants to believe, and yet… all those years watching his boy suffer have chiseled away at hope and belief, leaving chasms of doubt flowing with a sludge of disappointment tinged with bitter rage. Any belief that is left is weak and hollow.

He is unsure, and now his lack of faith might be what stands between his child and wholeness. So he stammers with a hoarse voice, “I believe…” then he looks down at the ground, tears swelling in his eyes. Finally he lifts his eyes to stare directly into the loving yet stern eyes of Jesus and cries, “Help my unbelief!” And it’s done.

Jesus already knew he couldn’t fully believe. What normal, rational human would? To believe means to hope, and hope is dangerous. I don’t think Jesus was really looking for belief or recognition. I think he was looking for connection. He drove this man to the deep, authentic part of himself. He probably drove most of the onlookers to a deep, authentic part of themselves, too.

God’s primary business is honest, loving community. He wants us to have honest community within our own hearts, minds, and souls. He wants us to be in honest community with Him, even on the days when our honesty feels more like fury than faith-fullness or love. And he wants us to reach out in love and truth to each other, especially when we are in the dark.

Sometimes he heals the son. Sometimes the son is lost. The point is that we are connected to God no matter what happens. And no matter what happens, we are, through our joy and our suffering, called to walk through it all with each other.

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